There are two wonderful Diana King albums available in the US. A
third is available
in the free world. Tougher & Live [Sony, 96; AAD, 12, 68:00] is a Japanese
While many of the songs in studio versions are on Shy Guy, the live versions are
including a Bob Marley medley and a great tune, "Bad For the Night,"
which is otherwise unreleased.
It can be too soon in an artist's career for a concert album, but there are great second albums like Tasmin Archer's "Shipbuilding" and Jade's "BET Listening Party." Diana seems more of a studio artist because her recordings are so polished, but this has everything you need in a concert. Until she makes it to town, this will hold me.
I'm not crazy about the disco medley, though it's okay. The rest is gold. Even "Sukiyaki," for her adoring audience, is sweet and soulful. The album proves that Diana King is a powerhouse. She co-writes most of her songs, displays an amazing range, does it all while blowing the roof off the joint. Howard Stern may be the king of most media, but Diana is the king of music.
If you can get your hands on this album, buy it. It's worth whatever it costs. Trust me. And if you can't trust me, whom can you trust — the President?
Hard to believe it was 1987 when Jenny Morris hit in the United
Soul." It was on MTV, H1V and it is a wonderful song that still holds up. Her album of the
was finely crafted rock with great lyrics. I don't believe her 1989 digital follow-up,
commercially successful. It was a better album, with thoughtful, catchy lyrics and strong,
memorable tunes. I
guess it lacked a hit single. Who knows? |
I'd pretty much given up hope of hearing another Jenny Morris album, when I chanced upon some Internet information that she did, indeed, have more albums. But they were only released in Australia. I wasn't able to get to Australia, and my usual import resources do not carry their products. Finally, I accidentally hit on a web site for an Australian CD supplier, NoizeNet. I gave it a try and a few weeks later, my Jenny Morris CDs arrived.
On first listening, Honeychild [EastWest, 91; AAD, 12, 55:07] grabbed me. It's
danceable and the bass
was so incredible, I checked the booklet to learn it was Robbie Shakespeare, with Sly Dunbar
They're from an island, too. The songs by Morris (usually co-written with Andrew Farriss) are
not quite up to
those on "Shiver," but are far better than most by artists with US recording contracts. She
always has inventive
arrangements and isn't afraid to mix things up or turn a phrase:
The thing with Jenny is that she's got these great words, but she isn't afraid to rock. There is an outstanding reggae song, "Self-Deceiver," on Shiver, but on Honeychild the Jamaican rhythm section lively up her rock music. It's beautifully mixed, instantly infectious and free of gratuitous rap.
The catchiest ditty, near the end, is almost as great as "Body & Soul." It's called "I'll Be There For You." Apparently, if you can get to Australia. It makes you feel good; it's good for you. Good for Jenny.
It took longer for Salvation Jane [RooArt, 95; AAD, 13, 59:28] to get to me. I could
classic albums that took me a few listenings to appreciate, but why embarrass myself?|
I don't want to be Mr Hype, but this is in the spirit of the later, great Beatles albums.
(as with some Billy Joel or most Jeff Lynn). Each song has its own vision and personality.
Into Walls" sounds like it could be a cover of something left off Abbey
Road. There's a sweet reggae ballad, "Hope (Now I Know)." I You must hear "What Do I
Now." It rocks, but says something.
Another great band, obviously having lots of fun, luckily for the listener. There's a fine Billy Bragg composition, "Price I Pay," the great title song by Andrew Farriss. Another male guest writer is Rick Nowels, who performs on "In Too Deep" as well. It's a metaphorical melody that is catchy and fun. I give Jenny credit for relinquishing her singer-songwriter persona to perform this wonderful song. Maybe Americans will get to hear it if gets covered by a local artist although, ironically, it was recorded in Hollywood.
The selections written by Jenny alone are usually right on the money. "Angels" has one of these hook choruses you immediately want to sing along with.
These songs have hooks and melodies and everything. The musicianship is incredible. By the end of the album, you expect nothing less than inspired playing. All they're missing is vulgarity and inanity. Even the artwork is impressive. And Jenny's singing is always right on the money.
What burns my ass is that these works are released by Warner Australia, a division of Time-Warner. So what would be the big deal to release them here? Wasn't it Frank Zappa who said I've been to hell, I recorded for Warner Brothers? Anyway, I suspect with retail prices inflated lately, you can order these from Australia for about the same amount you'd pay for a crappy American disc. Too bad Warners still get some of the money, the weasels.
Not long after bemoaning the delay in releasing Carleen Anderson's blessed
burden [Virgin, 98; AAD, 13, 59:28] album, I secured a copy. Of a Japanese
Burden contains "Maybe I'm Amazed," previously released on the 1997 European EP of the same name; the other songs are new. And with a couple of exceptions, including a Van Morrison gem, they're typically tight Anderson compositions. I can't imagine why this wasn't released in the United States. Her first album is still available and selling.
This one is fine. Carleen has a distinctive, powerful voice that's hard to ignore, unless you're a sleazy American music executive. There are some resemblances to true spirit, but she breaks lots of new ground and once, again, it's an eminently listenable album. Easy to listen to, but never easy listening. The musicianship is first class. The recording is tip top. There are several adventurous experiments in the arrangements, which work.
The lyrics are always worthwhile, never cliched. She seems forgiving. In
"Redemption," she actually finds a
man who gives his "gender a good name." Perhaps because, as she points out in
"leopards in the temple:"
I guess I should be glad to own this album. And that it has a bonus cut and a Japanese lyric sheet, in case I ever learn Japanese.
|"It's not every day the music biz allows somone of her talent|
to let down their hair and rock, but, boy, does she rock."
– Dele Fadele, nme.com on Blessed Virgin
For more information, click on the names above.
|Another great album available as an import only in the United States: Bloom by Tasmin Archer.|
Pointer Sisters Retrospect|
Mica Paris Black Angel
Dina Carroll Only Human
|Not only Pop albums have trouble getting US releases. Consider American soprano Denyce Graves. She's got a great album of arias, produced in France, only available as an import.|
Violinist Isabelle van Keulen is Dutch, I believe; she had several American releases on
the Philips label, like
the one pictured. |
If you enjoy concert and chamber music, you face a dilemma. Popular pieces are recorded over and over, to the exclusion of lesser known works. Obscurity doesn't equate with mediocrity. And no matter how much you love a particular sonata, how many renditions of it do you want? Ms van Keulen generally records less well-known pieces. She did the Mozart violin (and piano) concertos for Philips. They aren't as over-recorded as other Mozart works, like his later symphonies.
Her most recent releases are on Koch, imported from Austria, unless you happen to be in Austria. She performs with Ronald Brautigam on piano, emphasising French composers, such as Fauré and Saint-Saëns, whose B minor violin concerto was on the first disc of hers I heard. Another gem is a two-CD set of Stravinsky's works for violin and piano (Olli Mustonen), which was barely in print. Her performances are always moving.
Advances in technology and the Internet supposedly will allow us to enjoy any music we want. The poor distribution of recordings like these make me skeptical. More likely, it will be easier to get the same old stuff by the usual artists, not the more challenging and exciting performances.